Monday 30 October 2017

Does Kimi Räikkönen have what it takes to make up points on the leaders? By Steven Critchley

Ten years ago a champion, today a relative also-ran. Kimi Räikkönen is perhaps one of the most underrated racers in the roster today. And with Finland's record for producing F1 talent, it may pain him particularly to see a less-experienced countryman – in Valtteri Bottas – occupying a coveted Mercedes car. Naturally, where Räikkönen's title win of 2007 is concerned, cynics would be quick to point out that it was won by just a single point, and afforded him in some part by a period of indifferent form for both McLaren drivers. Today, a long win-less run, spanning back to the 2013 season opener in Australia, as reported on BBC Sport, stands out as particularly galling for Räikkönen. Yet, until his retirement at the Spanish Grand Prix, Räikkönen's early 2017 form on was strong and consistent.

‘Kimi Räikkönen’ by Mark McArdle
via Flickr (CC-BY-SA-2.0)
Whether Sebastian Vettel's continued dominance over his team mate is part of some intricate Ferrari strategy remains to be seen, but as of 24 May 2017, where he is an 80/1 outsider (Source: Betway Sports), Räikkönen's ability to mix it with the elite remains firmly in question. Naturally, in light of the downturn in form he suffered at the end of 2016, with two retirements in the final four races, most experts would have dismissed Räikkönen's title hopes long before even the pre-season tests of 2017 began. These same 'experts' could forever analyse Räikkönen's situation, but the sole fact remains obvious – Räikkönen must begin winning races, and quickly.

Mexico Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - However you get them

We didn't get anything like the race anticipated. Indeed it was one back to front - literally.

Photo: Octane Photography
After a lap the chief world drivers' championship protagonist Lewis Hamilton was last and his one (albeit distant) contender Sebastian Vettel was second last. All due to a first complex contretemps.

The title calculations therefore were re-done; Seb needed second to delay Lewis' title. He didn't get there, as he was never going to do without attrition or safety cars which never arrived. Lewis therefore confirmed the crown in odd circumstances, but it was no less deserved for that.

And while all this was going on a certain Max Verstappen won, in a race of one.

You can have a read of my take on it all for Motor Verso here:

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Mexican GP Report - Taking the long route

Lewis Hamilton clinched his fourth world title in the Mexican Grand Prix. This you'll have got short odds on. I wouldn't however like to say what odds you'd have got on how we got there. But ultimately that he got there was all that matters.

Lewis Hamilton, via a haphazard route,
claimed his fourth world title
Photo: Octane Photography
Whatever can be said about F1, and motorsport, it always carries a possibility that things can look very different in a blink. And it hardly gets more unrecognisable than after one lap of this race: championship protagonist one Sebastian Vettel was second last; championship protagonist two Lewis Hamilton last.

At the end of the long run to the opening complex they were side-by-side contesting the lead, joined by a certain Max Verstappen making them three-wide. Max as is his way channelled a perfect level of aggression to elbow his way to the front, and amid the uproar Seb's front wing made contact with Lewis's right rear tyre.

Despite the odd internet conspiracy theory - Niki Lauda was critical of Seb too - it was hard to attribute too much blame.

But whatever Lewis's tyre was punctured and Seb had to replace his wing. Thus we had the odd sight of the key pair touring gingerly into the pits at the end of lap one.

Saturday 28 October 2017

Mexico City Qualifying - Going down fighting

We had forgotten about him. The focus in Mexico's qualifying was on Max and the Mercs. But Sebastian Vettel, almost unnoticed, was in the mix, and not one to be written off. Especially not at the last of a quali session. And he snatched this pole position with a stunning final effort around the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

Despite everything, Sebastian Vettel is going down
fighting and took Mexico's pole
Photo: Octane Photography
From the championship angle it was an act of futility; Ferrari lately hasn't had its troubles to seek more generally either. But at least Seb is going down fighting, being one of the few things about the Scuderia not to flinch in recent weeks.

That party piece of his, absolute taking a car as fast as it can go - and perhaps faster - in a quali crunch point, was what did it. Appropriately it was his landmark 50th pole.

"It was quite a lap I have to say. I'm really really happy," Vettel said, again appropriately.

"It's very difficult here, very slippery, difficult to get everything in one lap. I had a little bit [of an advantage] in the first sector, I managed to get that right so I had a good start, then I had a bit of a moment at turn six, I nearly lost it there, had to go down to 1st gear, but I didn't lose any time.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Mexican GP Betting Preview - Silver struggle?

You know the one about not jumping to conclusions. Lewis Hamilton has won six of the last eight rounds, and been at somewhere near the top of his game. Now we have the Mexico round, with plenty of long straights on the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez on which the Mercedes can stretch its legs.

The championships may be as good as gone, but Ferrari
 looks good for the Mexico race
By ProtoplasmaKid - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://
And yet. Mercedes has been worried about this one for a while. With the high altitude all will be able to run with maximum downforce, and Ferrari and Red Bull has tended to look stronger in such a spec this season.

"I think the Ferraris will be quite quick," said Lewis in advance of this one. "I'm not sure how we're going to do at that track, I think they might have the upper hand."

And even better the bookies don't appear to have twigged, making Lewis the clear favourite. Therefore lay your money on Sebastian Vettel at 7/2 to get the pole and 13/5 to get the win.

Seb to get fastest lap at 5/2 also looks good - he indeed has taken fastest lap in two of the previous three races (and he barely started the other one).

Tuesday 24 October 2017

US Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Hamilton Habitual

Photo: Octane Photography
It was on a number of levels familiar fare. But in terms of what Lewis Hamilton is doing it was no less captivating for that.

Lewis rode his luck somewhat in previous rounds, but Austin was different. He was on another level and his win was never in doubt, even when he lost the lead at the start.

There was entertainment behind though, though in another familiar aspect at the last we got something regrettable.

You can have a read of my take on the US Grand Prix for Motor Verso here:

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Monday 23 October 2017

Mexico City Preview: Something old, something new

It's still a new round. But of course it is far from new. And far from typical of the sort that has parachuted onto the modern F1 calendar lately.

The new stop-off that's far from new
By Luis Urquiza -
22753552172/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.
Mexico has considerable F1 heritage, as well as considerable F1 presence. And when it reconvened as an F1 host two years ago it confirmed too that it bows to few when it comes to the quantity and passion of its fans.

F1 returned then to Mexico for the first time since 1992 and indeed to the same, albeit revised, Magdalena Mixhuca park venue in Mexico City. And it was not just due to this that it shares little with the often tepid new-fangled rounds of the past couple of decades.

Some 350,000 come through the gates across each weekend visit which includes 40,000 packing out the astonishing baseball stadium section, which also hosts the podium ceremony and provides a football crowd-like atmosphere. F1's return moved even sober Niki Lauda to describe it as the best F1 event he had attended.

US GP Report - Familiarisation session

It seemed terribly familiar. That's because it was.

Lewis Hamilton further cemented his
latest title with a crushing win
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton took his fifth Austin win from six in this US Grand Prix; his sixth US win from seven. And his sixth win from the last eight rounds anywhere.

Thus his fourth world title is further cemented. Short of Sebastian Vettel outscoring him by 17 that will be confirmed next week in Mexico. That particular one was inevitable anyway, and it feels now like we're going through the motions before the inevitable is confirmed. But no one is going through the motions as impressively as Lewis.

It threatened, briefly, to get interesting over first place in this one, as Vettel's Ferrari from second had much the better start and took the lead from poleman Lewis, elbowing ahead on the inside of turn one. But, as noted, it was fleeting. On lap six Lewis with cruel ease got by to lead, on the long straight.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Austin Qualifying - Making it more inevitable

If this year's title destination seemed inevitable, the Austin weekend thus far has done little to alter that status.

Lewis Hamilton made his fourth world
title even more inevitable with pole
Photo: Octane Photography
Yes one does not get rich backing against Lewis Hamilton at Austin's Circuit of the Americas. But even so the extent of his advantage stunned, not least as Mercedes on pure pace this time looked ahead too.

And Lewis, as if leaving nothing to chance on any front, has topped every Austin session. Including in qualifying.

He cruised to pole with minimal rancour, his first effort in Q3 - even with a derate - good enough by a way.

"He's moved onto a different plane since the summer," noted an observing Pat Symonds.

Friday 20 October 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Donald Trump Tweets On Formula 1 #FakeNews

Will Donald Trump attend the 2017 United States Grand Prix? If he does, would he tweet about Formula 1? After all, that's one thing he's really good at. In this week's episode, Mithila and Kunal put their creative hats on and tell you what Trump could tweet on Formula 1, if he did.

Also, could Fernando Alonso have won the 2017 Drivers' Championship with Ferrari? With Usain Bolt, Michael Buffer and a variety of musical acts, the United States Grand Prix could be setting a new benchmark for Formula 1. Tune in!

(Season 2017, Episode 34)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour. 

Thursday 19 October 2017

USA uses enough oil to fill the Empire State Building 3 times over – every day, by Select Car Leasing

Since President Trump withdrew the USA from the Paris Agreement, Select Car Leasing thought it would be a good time to look at just how much petrol the USA uses when compared with other large economies.

It may not surprise you that the USA 'leads' the world in terms of petrol usage. But it may surprise you when you see just how much petrol they use when compared with other major economies.

The USA uses 19,396,000 barrels of petrol per day. That's enough to fill the Empire State Building almost 3 times over.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

US GP Betting Preview - Lone star in the Lone Star State?

On one level calling this weekend's US Grand Prix at Austin looks a no brainer.

Will it be a close fight between the big three teams?
Photo: Octane Photography
Lewis Hamilton is a Texan specialist, with four wins from five races here. He also is in formidable recent form - winning five from the last seven. Plus the circuit, the first two thirds of it at least, should suit the Mercedes. And 9/10 for Lewis to triumph looks reasonable value.

But dig a little deeper and things may not be that simple in any case. The final part of the COTA lap may not suit the Merc plus tyre warm up can be tricky at Austin - something that on 2017 experience will give the silver squad's engineers a shudder.

Plus its two closest rival teams will enter the weekend with optimism. It's easy to lose sight of that the Ferrari's still looked quick in recent weeks when it's not been breaking down; COTA has a bit of everything about both its layout and its temperatures and these should play into the hands of the versatile red machine. And its reliability woes have to end sometime, don't they...?

Fastest cars on the planet in 2017, by Multilotto

2017 is the year of the ultimate Speed freak. Gone are the days when 200 mph was the holy grail of motoring. Today there are many cars which have breached this once impossible threshold. Indeed, some of the fastest cars of 2017 completely obliterate 200 mph. It seems 2017 has thrown up a new unreachable target, the lords of asphalt are now on a mission to create a mind boggling 300 mph, road legal car.

Here, Multilotto have put together a list of the fastest cars on the planet in 2017. With the price tag which comes with these dream Hypercars, a lottery win is the only way that most of us will be able to afford one of the oh so beautiful beasts.

Sit back, relax, and dream the impossible dream.

Monday 16 October 2017

Austin Preview: Taking care of business

Unfinished business. The itch it couldn't scratch. Call it what you will, it applied to America for much of F1's history.

F1 has at last found a good home in the US - at Austin
Photo: Octane Photography
The world's largest economy, sports mad and likely unparalleled in its attachment to the automobile; add that F1 purports to have a world championship. Yet somehow for years it didn't amount to pitching a tent Stateside that wouldn't fall down upon contact with the slightest gust of wind.

Demonstrating as much there have been no fewer than ten US F1 hosts (no other country gets close). Contrary to some presumptions F1 did previously get it right in the States, with well-established and popular rounds at Watkins Glen and Long Beach. Both were lost in the early 1980s.

Of the other attempts, some of them have been cringe-worthy; for stretches there was no US round at all. In advance of the latest go in Austin a few expected more of the same.

Yet when everyone arrived for the first time in 2012 the doom-mongers simply could not have been more wrong.

Thursday 12 October 2017

Japanese Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Deja vu all over again

At Suzuka it was deja vu all over again.

Photo: Octane Photography
Really. For the third race in a row Ferrari compromised itself from the first beat. And Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes helped themselves to a big points gain. Now the destination of the drivers' title their way looks certain.

For Motor Verso I give my take on it all, and shoehorn a few more Yogi Berra lines...

You can have a read via this link:

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Monday 9 October 2017

Malaysia Grand Prix review for Motor Verso - Let's twist again

Sepang International Circuit Grandstand Tower 2016 Malaysian GP
By Morio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://],
via Wikimedia Commons
A little belated (and to some extent overtaken by events) but here's my review of the Malaysia GP for Motor Verso - a weekend wherein F1 said 'let's twist we did last summer...'

You can have a read via this link:

Do check out the Motor Verso site too; you'll find motoring news, car reviews and features - the team on the site carry out week-long test drives of the latest cars - as well as photos and videos of the machines.

Sunday 8 October 2017

Japanese GP Report - When things run away from you

It was deja vu all over again. Literally. In the Japanese Grand Prix for the third race in a row Ferrari was compromised from the first beat. For the third race in a row (in fact more than that) Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes made a major points gain. And now we're in the endgame.

No wonder he's smiling - in Suzuka Lewis Hamilton
all but wrapped up his fourth drivers' title
Photo: Octane Photography
This time it was a spark plug problem for Sebastian Vettel. Just as with Kimi Raikkonen in Malaysia, the Ferrari mechanics were frantic on the grid around Seb's car. Such reliability niggles are becoming a habit.

Unlike Kimi in Sepang Seb got going but the extent of his problem soon was evident. Max Verstappen ambushed him for P2 at the hairpin first time through, then Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas all swamped him on the pit straight next time past.

Quickly he was pulled in to retire, and Vettel later spoke like a man who knew the championship was gone.

"I think I need to protect them," he said of his team. "We've done an incredible job this year, it's like that sometimes.

Saturday 7 October 2017

Suzuka Qualifying - Rising star

So reports of Mercedes's F1 death were greatly exaggerated.

Yes to an extent a bounce back was expected. Suzuka, particularly its full noise final part, would suit it. The temperatures - unlike the previous two rounds - were cool, and this the Merc loves. But given recent flailing, much of it unanticipated, no one was taking anything for granted.

Mercedes, and especially Lewis Hamilton, reasserted
control in Suzuka qualifying
Photo: Octane Photography
From an early part of the qualifying hour it looked a familiar story though - Lewis Hamilton and his Merc well on top. He converted his advantage too, taking a pole as balmy as is possible in such circumstances, by a third of a second. It is, astonishingly at this drivers' track, his first ever pole here of his 71.

"I never ever really got a great balance in the past so I never did great in qualifying," Lewis noted afterwards.

"So to finally get the balance behind me with the great work of my engineers and the great timing from all the mechanics, I finally got on track and did the time.

"And the car is crazy here, I wish you could feel it.

Thursday 5 October 2017

Inside Line F1 Podcast - Why Microphones To Enhance F1 Engines Sounds Is A Good Idea

Is Formula 1 going too artificial by thinking of introducing ceramic microphones to enhance the sounds of the F1 engines? Or is it an acceptable solution from a sports broadcast point of view? Unlike the DRS, this is one solution that we don't mind supporting the sport for.

In this week's episode of the Inside Line F1 Podcast, we wonder if the race organisers of the Malaysian Grand Prix blurted out the absolute truth about the sport, while also claiming that they wouldn't play host to Formula 1 even if it was offered for free! Ouch!

We discuss Paul Hembrey's idea of introducing 'mini cups' along side the World Championship to make the longer seasons more interesting and Graham Keilloh's novel idea of crowning the driver with the maximum race laps led as that season's Drivers' Champion.

And then of course, we have our usual McLaren-Honda section, along with a much-needed one for Daniel Ricciardo. As we look forward to Suzuka, let's hope Ferrari's engines don't hit Honda mode yet again.

(Season 2017, Episode 33)

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1 humour.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

New Motorsport Week article: Why Formula 1 should get rid of blue flags

By Royalbroil (Own work) [CC
BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativec
3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Malaysian Grand Prix weekend was extraordinary. Not so much in thrills necessarily, but in providing things to talk about.

And one from late in the race got me - that Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso had their latest minor spat. This time as Alonso waited a few corners before letting Vettel by to lap him.

Nothing personal to Seb, but it's long been a hobby horse of mine that F1 could do without blue flags. Keep them as advice by all means, but we'd benefit in a number of ways if those lapped were not forced to leap out of the way pronto.

In my latest article for Motorsport Week I argue this case. You can have a read here:

Japanese GP Betting Preview - Turning Japanese

F1's battles at the front in recent times have been three way between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. And the Japanese round this weekend once again in advance feels a close call between the trio - all approach the round with some reason for hope.

Will the 'big three' teams be evenly
matched again at Suzuka?
Photo: Octane Photography
Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari will not now be taking a gearbox grid drop in Japan, which brings him right back into the game. He has after all been the pace-setter in both of the previous two rounds, and more encouragingly for him the two tracks had very different demands.

It's not clear if the bookies have noticed - or perhaps they've noticed Ferrari's concurrent habit of treading on its own tail. Seb's 14/5 to win in Japan looks generous.

They have noticed Red Bull's improved form though, with Max Verstappen at a much tightened 5/1 (readers of the Malaysia betting preview will know Max could have been backed at 25/1 for his Sepang win) and Daniel Ricciardo at 7/1 to triumph this time. Flowing Suzuka will suit the RB13 - a few think Red Bull again has the best chassis in F1. If you fancy playing safer then Max is at 3/4 and Daniel 11/10 to get on the podium.

Monday 2 October 2017

Suzuka Preview: Big in Japan

They don't make 'em like they used to.

It's not always true, but it sometimes is. It certainly is with Suzuka, the welcome stop-off for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Inimitable Suzuka
Photo: Octane Photography
Whatever the newer venues' merits none have got even close to quickening the pulse when cars circulate as they do at this venue. Not all that many of the older tracks have either.

The layout is dominated by challenging, snaking, undulating turns - the sort that separate the great from the good; the sort that would most likely be laughed out of court were they proposed now from the ground up.

The narrow circuit's challenge is like walking an ever-veering tightrope. There aren't vast run-off areas to use as a benign get-out. Precision counts.

Sunday 1 October 2017

Malaysia GP Report - Max power

Rarely can an F1 weekend have contained so many twists. There were planety on Friday and Saturday. And the Malaysia Grand Prix's Sunday had plenty more.

Max Verstappen reminded us of his star
quality with a crushing win
Photo: Octane Photography
And quickly. The first was before the race even started, as Ferrari sank further into its recent quagmire. Kimi Raikkonen reported a power loss on the way to the dummy grid, which proved terminal. He didn't start.

But in another twist this did not give us a Lewis Hamilton benefit run. Mercedes's worries about lacking race pace were founded. Max Verstappen's Red Bull hounded leader Lewis from the off, sailed down the inside of the first turn after four laps, then left him.

On lap 12 he was five seconds up the road; on lap 18 it was nine. Almost like he was driving a Mercedes. He was never seen again.

"I think in the beginning, straight away the car felt good," said Verstappen later.